Moʿin Moṣavver | Manuscripts | Shahnama of Ferdowsi

Manuscript D, folio 44

First Combat of Rostam and Esfandiyār

The painting is an irregular L shape, which is not confined within the frame that encloses the text, but continues well into the left margin and upward in that margin. The main portion of the composition, in the space under the text, is almost entirely filled by the two combatants and their mounts. Rostam, in his familiar tiger skin coat and leopard skin headdress, has charged from the right on his faithful horse Raḵš. Esfandiyār, in a chain mail tunic and pointed steel helmet, has approached from the opposite direction on his customary black horse (also depicted on folios 26 and 31v). The two have met and are tugging at each others belts, each trying to dislodge his opponent from the saddle. The background is a light mauve, non-descript, hillside that rises to a peak behind the heads of the two combatants. In the right background the head of a soldier appears from behind the slope, and in the right foreground three others, with their lower extremities cropped by the frame, also observe the battle. On the left side of the composition, in the portion in the left margin, is a group of onlookers stacked in a row going back in pictorial space. Altogether seven figures, all but one wearing turbans, and four horses, are represented. The figure at the top, wearing a yellow tunic, with his finger to his lips in a sign of astonishment, is evidently of higher rank than the other onlookers and might possibly be identified as Esfandiyår’s son, Bahrām. Three standards emerge high on the left, and in the far background is a rock hill rendered in white with gray articulations, with a bush growing at the top.

Painting: irregular shape 26 x 21 cm. The four columns of text above the painting consists of, from right to left, fifteen, eleven, eleven, and fifteen lines of text respectively. Below is a single column of two lines in the lower left. A rectangular frame encloses the text and the painting on the right side and bottom, but is omitted on the left side between the upper and lower text blocks, allowing the painting to spill into the left margin. Signed in the lower margin in miniscule characters in Moʿin’s hand: ze towfiq ṣānʿe raqam zad moʿin (Drawn with the grace of the Maker by the most humble Moʿin). Not dated.
For a further sequel in this same episode see folio 48.

Painting references:
Cambridge Shahnameh Project
Text references: Warner, V, pp.222-25. Mohl, IV, p.522. Levy, p.205.

Robert Eng
Last Updated: January 12, 2011 |
Originally published: May 7, 2003

Photo: © The Trustees of The Chester Beatty Library, Dublin